Hugh Freeze has long been considered a strong recruiter, most notably from his time at Ole Miss when he hauled in the fifth ranked recruiting class in the country in 2013. His first two recruiting classes at Liberty have one upped each other as the best in school history, and the Class of 2021 the Flames currently sport is on its way to again being the best in school history.
Last year’s class finished as the 89th best in the country, according to 247Sports, and had 13 three-star and three two-star rated prospects. So far, the 2021 class has one four-star, eight three-star, and five two-star rated prospects before the Flames’ staff turns the corner and heads for home to wrap up this class.
The program’s strong start to the 2020 football season can only help the staff’s efforts on the recruiting trail. Liberty is receiving some national attention following the team’s 6-0 start and current eight game win streak as well as the program’s first ever win over an ACC opponent and first ever national ranking. Of course, all of this comes following Freeze’s first complete season at the school where he guided Liberty to an 8-5 overall record and a win over Georgia Southern in the first bowl game in school history.
“Obviously, these are huge things that are happening for us to help us recruit,” Freeze said. “It’s our job now to figure out, with the current culture and climate of the pandemic, how do you capitalize on what you’re doing to get kids across the finish line, hopefully in that early signing period, to come join you. That’s our biggest challenge. I talk to our current commits ever single week in Zoom calls, feel like we’re in a good position will all of those guys, but it’s still in your mind, you’re always thinking how do we capitalize on being undefeated, top 25, how do we use it to help us get kids to commit here.”
Liberty and Freeze snagged the program’s top rated commitment in school history during the bye week when defensive end Khristian Zachary pledged to the Flames. He’s the first ESPN 300 recruit to commit to Liberty. According to 247Sports, the top nine rated Liberty commitments in program history were all Hugh Freeze commits that have joined the program (or will join) as part of the past three recruiting classes. Additionally, 11 of the top 14 and 19 of the top 23 all-time best ranked recruits have been recruited by Freeze.
In the summer, Liberty also picked up a commitment from three-star quarterback Nate Hampton from Mocksville, North Carolina. The 6’6″ signal caller had over 20 offers to chose from including the likes of Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, and Old Dominion. He threw for nearly 3,300 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior.
The defensive line continues to be an area of emphasis for the Liberty coaching staff as well. In addition to Zachary, the Flames have early commitments from three-star defensive line products Miguel Jackson and Christopher Boti.
Coaches of all sports at Liberty, have always talked strongly of how important it is to get a prospect on campus. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, the NCAA has not allowed in-person visits by prospective athletes since March. The early December signing period, which begins Dec. 16, is still scheduled to proceed as planned.
“It will be interesting to see how the December signing period goes with kids not being able to visit campuses,” said Freeze.
Many of Liberty’s current commitments have been able to make in person visits on their merit by virtue of driving to Lynchburg. All of them have been given virtual visits via Zoom calls with the Liberty coaching staff.
With the Flames currently in the undefeated, in the Top 25, and with a huge opportunity this weekend against Virginia’s flagship program in Virginia Tech, Liberty can continue to increase its brand on a national stage which will always help from a recruiting standpoint.
Freeze, as would any coach, prefers to try to sell Liberty to a recruit with all the positive momentum behind him. “Certainly, it’s a lot easier having those facts than it would be the other way around, particularly with kids not being able to come to campus.”